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Universities as Sites of Activism and Protection & UNESCO Chair Launch

About the event

FGHR is delighted to be invited to the Centre for Applied Human Rights’ Conference on “Universities as Sites of Activism and Protection & UNESCO Chair Launch” at the University of York. This is a  workshop on University-Civil Society Collaboration to Protect Activists and Enhance Political Space, to be hosted by the Human Rights Defender Hub, Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York, on 13-14 March 2023.


Universities have much to contribute to activism and protection. They have legitimacy, status, access to knowledge and resources, and local and global networks. Further, while universities themselves are under attack in many parts of the world, they often have more political room to manoeuvre than civil society groups. But universities are also large and complex institutions, characterised by value clashes and contradictory pressures e.g. are universities businesses, run for profit and to service the needs of the economy, or public institutions that should champion values such as freedom of expression and association, and a wider public good? While not ignoring the challenges, this workshop will showcase the progressive potential of university-civil society collaborations: at the frontline of protests (Turkey, Iran); integrating activists into teaching and research to provide new forms of knowledge and support activism; and providing various forms of protection (of activists, values, and different forms of knowledge).


The event will include the launch of the UNESCO Chair in Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Expansion of Political Space, to be held at CAHR, which particularly focuses on the role of universities. A Working Paper titled Universities as Sites of Activism and Protection will be circulated in advance, and will provide a point of reference for workshop discussions. The workshop will co-produce the first draft of an Action Plan for Universities as Sites of Protection, to outline the future work programme for the UNESCO Chair and its partners.

Event reflections

FGHR was honoured to be invited to the Centre for Applied Human Rights’ Conference on “Universities as Sites of Activism and Protection & UNESCO Chair Launch” at the University of York from March 13-14, 2023. Representing FGHR at the conference were Founder & Executive Director, Adith Srinivasan, Events Director, Christina Yuen, and Content Writer, Fiza Faheem. The two-day workshop involved presentations from expert panellists as well as working-group discussions on the role of universities and civil society actors in fostering student activism on campuses, examining existing efforts and brainstorming future initiatives that could be implemented in the process of working towards the protection of activists and political space within higher education institutions. We would like to thank CAHR for giving us the opportunity to be part of this highly stimulating and meaningful dialogue, and to learn from the insights and experiences of academics and human rights practitioners from varying areas of expertise. The knowledge and inspiration that this conference has imbued us with will certainly enable us to continue to spearhead initiatives in human rights activism at universities all around the globe.

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